QUESTIONED DOCUMENTS AND THEIR FORENSIC ANALYSIS
M.Sc. FORENSIC SCIENCE
Questioned document refers to any signature, handwriting, typewriting, or other mark whose source or authenticity is in dispute or doubtful. For instance, letters, checks, driver licenses, contracts, wills voter registrations, passports, petitions, threatening letters, suicide notes, lottery tickets; and marks on doors, walls, windows, or boards.
Questioned documents analysis is often involved in white collar crimes example : check frauds but it can also be used vastly from medical malpractice , art forgeries to homicides .Questioned document examiner deals with documents whose authenticity is in question.
Questioned document examiner looks for the genuinity of the document by looking for its source , who produced it , time frame when it was created , products and preparation done in creating it and find any modifications done in the original document.
Documents are examined for the evidence of obliteration , alterations , erasures or page substitution . The invisible impressions present in the document can also provide major evidences . The document’s ink , type of paper used , production source such as printer , fax machine etc. , seal and stamps are also checked.
The major key element to documents examination is handwriting . The main principle of handwriting , hand printing and signature are :
No two skilled writers can write or have identical handwriting .
Every individual has natural variability in his or her handwriting .
No writer can improve his or her skill level of handwriting.
According to , Compute databases maintained by the U.S. Secret Service,German Federal Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation contain handwriting samples from hundreds of thousands of writers . Comparisons of these databases have not identified two individuals who have the exact same combination of handwriting characteristics,adding to the authenticity of handwriting as a solid form of evidence.
The most common type of questioned documents involve the alterations in legal documents . Example : Cheques are altered to increase the amount . A new number is simply overlapped over the old one. Numbers such as 2 , 3 , 5 , 6 ,9 can be easily converted to number 8 .
Number with straight surface such as 1 and 7 can be converted to 4 . Although the black or blue ink appears same under the white light but when checked under different frequencies of infrared radiation then the new ink can be distributed from the genuine ink and alteration can be observed easily .
Indentation mark can also be analysed as a evidence in questioned document such as if a suspect wrote something on the pile of paper or notebook and took the note but the indentation marks can be collected from the paper left below.
When investigating the Questioned document , the examiner must have “known specimen” which serves as standard and can be used to compare with the Questioned document . The known specimen includes particular ink , paper , machines such as fax machine , printers etc.
In case of handwriting , the requested writing specimens is matched with collected writing specimen . The requested writing specimens is collected by the investigator in controlled conditions . Some other sources of writing specimens include cancelled cheque , diary , receipts , legal documents etc.
THE PRESERVATION OF THE QUESTIONED DOCUMENT
The document in question must be handle and preserve carefully to prevent any loss of evidence in it . The evidence value of a document diminishes with careless handling .
The document should be retained in a transparent envelope or polythene sheet as it would facilitate viewing the document without spoiling it .
Handling directly with bare hands may not only soil the document but also destroy content and vital physical evidence at times such as fingerprints.
A document should never be folded along new lines .
A document should never be carried in pocket as the body temperature or sweat may adversely affect it .
A document should be protected from strong sunlight , wind , moisture or any chemical exposure.
Do not pin , tag or tear the document .
The torn or mutilated document should be recovered and submitted in the same condition as found.
The forwarding letter should contain the list of documents dispatched along with their identification marks.
The basic tool required for analysis of Questioned document is sharp eyesight to observe any kind alteration , defect or change in the document .The basic tools and equipments works on the principles of physics and chemistry. The equipments required are :
A variety of magnifiers
Light sources such as light table , photographic filters or dichroic filters
A good quality camera
Other modern equipments include Electrostatic Detection Apparatus ( EDA) and Video Spectral Analyser (VSC) etc.
EDA can perform non destructive examination of indentations on documents whereas VSC can separate different inks without destroy the documents.